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Windy roads often lead to hidden treasures

We have just completed the fourth full week of school, and let me tell you it has rocked my household. In one week, my daughter started high school and my husband started graduate school. I am still struggling to learn our new routine and balance the new changes. With all these changes I am also grieving for the imminent loss of my best friend and co-parenting partner, Sheebah, my rescue dog. She and I have shared several special moments these past weeks, purposely enjoying her last firsts. 

My daughter starting high school was much harder for me than I anticipated. I was nervous to send her to a larger school that is the last stop in childhood. Everyone assured me she would be OK, but I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t ready for the independence high school represented. I had the opportunity to meet with the principal. I was blown away. In the midst of continual criticism of our schools, I had once again found a gem — a person who advocated for my child, all children. And I was instantly calmed. After a lengthy conversation, I knew my daughter was in the right school. Even though I panicked and broke out in hives at freshmen enrollment, even though I am so very not ready to have a high school student, the MacArthur High School staff is the right staff for my child.

A year ago, I was terrified as I enrolled my daughter in Lawton schools. My daughter is precious. She is my most amazing accomplishment, something I guard against the ugliness of this world. As I stood in the cafeteria of MacArthur Middle School, I cried. This wasn’t right, she wasn’t in the right place. Her classes were all wrong and I didn’t know if I could do anything to help her. Worst of all, I didn’t know these people. Why should I trust them with my baby?

Then, the eighth grade principal came over. He listened, he heard and he didn’t laugh at me. He actually related to me. I started to feel like I might have an ally. Over the course of the week, before school started, he fixed my daughter’s schedule. He also looked for her on the first day and checked on her almost every day for the first three weeks. I found out later that he would stand where she could not see him and make sure she was adjusting well and making friends. We had a few more bumps that year, but I always knew I could count on the staff to fix them. And I was right. At the end of the school year, at eighth grade promotion, I begged the principal to move to the high school with us. Who else could I email when I was out of town to check on my child? Who else would understand what she needed? He assured me we would be OK. I was doubtful.

I have learned rocky roads lead to buried treasure.  I have met incredible staff at both MacArthur schools and can honestly say I don’t worry about the safety or happiness of my child. In the 21 months I have lived in Lawton, I really only lived here for the last five. Before that, I worked in Duncan. These past five months have been like a new start. Having lost my job, I decided to start my own business. I knew no one in Lawton, but surely — through sheer determination on my part — I have met some amazing people.

I have been welcomed at the Chamber of Commerce and adopted by the Lawton Business Women (LBW.) It has been hard walking into meetings where I do not know a soul, but at both places, people have introduced themselves to me, exchanged cards, and invited me to lunch. I was particularly nervous when I joined LBW. How would I ever fit in? I am not an Oklahoma native, and I didn’t go to school here. I found a group of warm, inviting women who want to see everyone succeed. I have made some incredible friends and received more help than I could have asked for. 

This year has been a difficult year. One day, I will share all the trials. But instead of giving up or losing hope, I have found buried treasures in Lawton and in life. 

Sara Orellana-Paape lives in Lawton. She can be reached at

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